Great Short Works of Herman Melville

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-02-26
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications

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Here are twenty-two stories that represent the best short work of American master Herman Melville, including "Billy Budd, Sailor." "Bartleby, the Scrivener," "Benito Cereno," and "The Encantadas." Book jacket.

Author Biography

Herman Melville (1819-1891) is recognized as one of America's greatest writers. His metaphysical whaling novel, Moby-Dick, is one of literature's most enduring works of art, and his shorter works, including "Billy Budd, Sailor," "Bartleby, the Scrivener," and "Benito Cereno" are considered classics of the form.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 9
The Town-Ho's Storyp. 19
Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Streetp. 39
Cock-A-Doodle-Dool or, The Crowing of the Noble Cock Beneventanop. 75
The Encantadas or Enchanted Islesp. 98
The Two Templesp. 151
Poor Man's Pudding and Rich Man's Crumbsp. 165
The Happy Failure: A Story of the River Hudsonp. 179
The Lightning-Rod Manp. 187
The Fiddlerp. 195
The Paradise of Bachelors and The Tartarus of Maidsp. 202
The Bell-Towerp. 223
Benito Cerenop. 238
Jimmy Rosep. 316
I and My Chimneyp. 327
The 'Geesp. 355
The Apple-Tree Table, or Original Spiritual Manifestationsp. 362
The Piazzap. 383
The Marquis de Grandvinp. 396
Three "Jack Gentian Sketches"p. 402
John Marrp. 417
Daniel Ormep. 424
Billy Budd, Sailorp. 429
A Selected Bibliographyp. 506
Chronologyp. 508
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Great Short Works of Herman Melville

Chapter One

The Town-Ho's Story

(As told at the Golden Inn)

Note: "The Town-Ho's Story" appeared first in Harper's New Monthly Magazine for October, 1851, where it was presented as an excerpt from "'The Whale' . . . a new work by Mr. Melville, in the press of Harper and Brothers, and now publishing in London by Mr. Bentley." (The same issue coinddentally featured an account of an "Incident During the Mutiny Of 1797," that near-revolutionary episode—characteristic of a .time, the anonymous author remarks, "more rife with interest and excitement" and "more animated by hope and fear" than the progress-blessed present age-to which Melville himself would return forty years later in Billy Budd. The "new work," with its more familiar American title, Moby-Dick, went on gale in New York in November, 1851, and was warmly recommended to Harper's readers in the December "Literary Notices" column.

As an interpolated chapter "The Town-Ho's Story" serves the purpose of bringing Moby Dick dramatically on stage soon after the revelation of Ahab's scheme of vengeance, and in the appropriate role of superhuman justicer. Otherwise the white whale would not appear, except spectrally, until the end of the book. As a self-contained tale of adventure, and Melville's first published work in this popular mode, the story is proof positive of its author's casual virtuosity in the art of narrative.

The Cape of Good Hope, and all the watery region round about there, is much like some noted four corners of a great highway, where you meet more travellers than in any other part.

It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another homeward-bound whaleman, the Town-Ho, was encountered. She was manned almost wholly by Polynesians. In the short

The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting a whale from the mast-head, still used by whalemen in hunting the famous Gallipagos terrapin.Gam that ensued she gave us strong news of Moby Dick. To some the general interest in the White Whale was now wildly heightened by a circumstance of the Town-Ho's story, which seemed obscurely to involve with the whale a certain wondrous, inverted visitation of one of those so-called judgments of God which at times are said to overtake some men. This latter circumstance, with its own particular accompaniments, forming what may be called the secret part of the tragedy about to be narrated, never reached the ears of Captain Ahab or his mates. For that secret part of the story was unknown to the captain of the Town-Ho himself. It was the private property of three confederate white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it seems, communicated it to Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secrecy, but the following night Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed so much of it in that way, that when he was wakened he could not well withhold the rest. Nevertheless, so potent an influence did this thing have on those seamen in the Pequod who came to the full knowledge of it, and- by such a strange delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in this matter, that they kept the secret among themselves so that it never transpired abaft the Pequod's main-mast. Interweaving in its proper place this darker thread with the story as publicly narrated on the ship, the whole of this strange affair I now proceed to put on lasting record.

For my humor's sake, I shall preserve the style in which I once narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish friends, one saint's eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza of the Golden Inn. Of those fine cavaliers, the young Dons, Pedro and Sebastian, were on the closer terms with me; and hence the interluding questions they occasionally put, and which are duly answered at the time.

"Some two years prior to my first learning the events which I am about rehearsing to you, gentlemen, the Town-Ho, Sperm Whaler of Nantucket, was cruising in your Pacific here, not very many days' sail eastward from the eaves of this good Golden Inn. She was somewhere to the northward of the Line. One morning upon handling the pumps, according to daily usage, it was observed that she made more water. in her hold than common. They supposed a sword-fish had stabbed her, gentlemen. But the captain, having some unusual reason for believing that rare good luck awaited him in those latitudes; and therefore being very averse to quit them, and the leak not being then considered at all dangerous, though, indeed, they could not find it after searching the hold as low down as was possible in rather heavy weather, the ship still continued her cruisings, the mariners working at the pumps at wide and easy intervals; but no good luck came; more days went by, and not only was the leak yet undiscovered, but it sensibly increased. So much so, that now taking some alarm, the captain, making all sail, stood away for the nearest harbor among the islands, there to have his hull hove out and repaired.

"Though no small passage was before her, yet, if the commonest chance favored, he did not at all fear that his ship would founder by the way, because his pumps were of the best, and being periodically relieved at them, those six-and-thirty men of his could easily keep the ship free; never mind if the leak should double on her. In truth, well nigh the whole of this passage being attended by very prosperous breezes, the Town-Ho had all but certainly arrived in perfect safety at her port without the occurrence of the least fatality, had it not been for the brutal overbearing of Radney, the mate, a Vineyarder, and the- bitterly provoked vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado from Buffalo.

"'Lakeman!-Buffalo! Pray, what is a Lakeman, and where is Buffalo?" said Don Sebastian, rising in his swinging mat of grass..

"On the eastern shore of our Lake Eric, Don; but—I crave your courtesy-may be, you shall soon hear further of all that. Now, gentlemen, in square-sail brigs and three-masted ships, well nigh as large and stout as any that ever sailed out of your old Callao to far Manilla; this Lakeman, in the landlocked heart of our America, had yet been . . .

Great Short Works of Herman Melville. Copyright © by Herman Melville. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Great Short Works of Herman Melville by Herman Melville
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